back to article David Cameron wants to push all of Blighty online

Reconditioned computers that cost less than £100 a pop have gone on sale today as part of the government's strategy to get more British people online. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, meanwhile, said this morning that the government's interwebulator sweetheart Martha Lane Fox had been busily recruiting "digital champions …


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  1. Pen-y-gors


    How does he get everyone online if they provide connectivity via Three's 3G mobile service? Is he extending that to provide 3G everywhere in the UK for everyone? (jolly nice idea - might be worth getting a smartphone then)

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Epic Fail or Colossal Win Win?

    Do the computers come with a very clear and easily understood government wealth/health warning to advise and prepare every newbie for the myriad pit falls and honey traps which infest the virtual world to trap and strip one of one's sensitive information and closet desires/systemic weaknesses and personal vulnerabilities for ruthless exploitation, before they rush online and lose themselves in the new worlds available there? Or is the plan just to throw them in at the deep end and watch them flounder and drown, and plead ignorance what they have done?

    One would be the act of a responsible and caring government/nation, whilst the other would be a monumental betrayal and akin to a treason and a gross dereliction of public duty?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm sick of people not understanding the influx of new memes...'I can haz cheeseburger, plees?' can now be placed on twitter and I will be able to see my neighbours 'Like this' comment whilst the underpriveldged population, who couldn't normally afford V+, watch 'Britain's got mediocre talent' on iPlayer since they missed it the night before, and the other portion of the population who avoided technology like the plague finally shun FM and listen to digital stations 'proving' that DAB wasn't a flop as it started the 'revolution'....Lane Fox should be sainted, or at least made a peer so she can force the last bastion of luddites in the Lords to abandon their filofax and love their iphones.....


    I feel we are living a Ben Elton book....

  4. Matt Siddall

    Link to the computers on sale might be nice

    1. The BigYin


      I did eventually find the Remploy Store on eBay, just a few crappy Dells really. That they're ones known to have dodgy capacitors.

    2. The BigYin

      And looking at the site...

      ...only a £3 diff between Ubuntu and Windows? Really? Sod the PC, where can I get Windows 7 and Office for £3?

      Something stinks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: And looking at the site...

        If you follow the links you will discover that the Ubuntu box is UNSUBSIDIZED.

        The Windows box headline price is for disabled people or people on low income. Wonder where the subsidy is coming from - MS discount or UK tax payer??

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Poor spec

        Not to mention they're poor spec machines, at least the Windows ones...

        Basic system, P4 2Ghz with 256MB Ram running Windows XP. Yeah that's going to go like a dream that is!

        More advanced spec, P4 2.8Ghz with 512MB Ram running Windows 7.

        Why are they even bothering? I mean I've seen half decent spec ex-corporate laptops for around the £150 mark with Windows XP.

        I agree about the price difference between Ubuntu and Windows too, something does smell fishy.


        1. Anonymous Coward

          "Not to mention they're poor spec machines"

          How many Xeon processors will sir require in sir's £92 computer?

        2. L.B

          Poor what!

          What browser and email client would these "Poor spec" machine not handle!

          These are not supposed to be gaming rigs, they are there to get people able to access the web and use email.

          This makes economic sense as most government activities can be (most have been) streamlined and made cheaper to provide, in the same way as every major company in the world now tries to use these simple tools to provide services and support to their customers.

          I the users of these machines find that they later want to watch TV or play games they can buy something more appropriate for that, but they will be past the 1st hurdle which for many is getting the first PC and using it and finding out how useful it can be.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The 3 schemes are here:

      Remploy -

      XMA -

      Microsoft -

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Great, everyone online

    Now raise the "broadband" definition to something greater than 2Mb for those who don't live in a city you posh git.

  6. The BigYin

    So where can they be bought?

    There's nothing about it on the Remploy site.

  7. jake Silver badge

    who will help get millions of adults online by the time the London 2012 Olympics starts.

    Mmmmmmmmmm ... Simpsons porn.

    That should do it ...

    1. Elmer Phud

      Why the 'Olympics'?

      What a load of utter crap, there are loads and loads of people who don't want to 'go live' and loads who wouldn't be able to afford to maintain the connection if they were given one. And what sort of conection would they have anyway? Maybe that's what the talks with China are about.

      And if that PR Gobshite man mentions 'libraries' then he really doesn't have a fucking clue as his minions are shutting them down.

      (Anyway, I thought the proper title was 'Boris' Barclays Olympics' as the twat tries to turn parts of London in to Glyndebourne while the proles are allowed to watch at home or from behind security fences.)

  8. Pete Foster

    Let me get this right

    Cameron wants to get people online. To do this they can order a new (overpriced, refurbished) PC via the Remploy website.

    That's forward thinking for you!

    1. Anonymous Coward


      It comes with a monitor and tech support. Presumably it's been neatly cleaned and repackaged which took time and resources on someone's part. (Or do they just turn up at your doorstep with a handful of tangled cables and a dusty computer?)

      It's not a dream machine, but I can't see how you can really make the case for it being overpriced.

      Just because you can find a similarly specced machine on eBay for less, from a seller who almost certainly put counterfeit Windows on it and won't give you a mouse (costs extra mate), or any tech support at all, doesn't mean that what Remploy and doing is wrong.

      And since you care about these people so much, I'd love to see you sell them cheaper, faster computers and do the tech support all by yourself. All from your tree house no doubt.

      It might be fun to bash Cameron but you could at least mention some things he's actually done wrong.

      1. Pete Foster


        I think you missed the point of my comment.

        I was alluding to the fact that in an attempt to help people get online, PCs are available to order online. Bit of a Catch 22 there, methinks.

        It might be fun to bash Cameron bashers, but at least find someone who bashed Cameron. ;o)

      2. The BigYin

        I know the units in question

        With 4gb RAM and a HDD to match, they will even manage virtualisation. half-Life etc will also run (and that was also on Ubuntu 10.10). The only problem is these units have a reputation for blowing capacitors.

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The Jeremy Clarkson of t'web

    While you can't fault MLF's zeal and enthusiasm, I can't help but wonder WHY she thinks everybody simply must use the internet - just as I can't fathom JC's petrol-headedness¹. Sure, the internet has it's uses, just as cars do. However that doesn't mean it's everyone's cup of tea and that non-users (whether through disadvantage, inertia or personal choice) should be thought of as somehow inferior, uninformed or mistaken - and therefore in need of her "miracle cure".

    My old mum is a prime example. She's never used the internet (nor a computer since the 80's). Not because she's incapable, or simple, or poor, or unwilling to learn new things. All the "2" clan (and the "3" generation progeny) are fully up to speed on all things digital and she is fully aware of our online activities. She just chooses not to partake - just as she chooses not to drive, go mountain climbing, or exploring the culture of places further than her bus pass will take her.

    In fact, I am quite glad that she has forsaken an online presence. She was brought up in a time where a stranger would be far more likely to hand you back a dropped wallet than mug you for it. When authority figures were trustworthy and upstanding and nobody troubled you (except for Reader's Digest) with exhortations to take up this special offer, this week only, save ££££'s. With that background she would be more likely than most (despite all the warnings from everyone she knows) to divulge card or personal details, to take pity on that poor nigerian who only wants to get away from the nastiness or to click on the link that is plainly from her bank.

    I also take issue with MLFs assertion that cheap PCs will fix the problem. She's nursing a logical disconnect between not having a computer and not going online. What about the tenner a month ISP subs? Why not just encourage non-liners (oooh, have I just invented a neologism?) to use their local library's faciiites? If she thinks cost is a primary factor, rather than knowledge or desire, shouldn't she be more concerned with the ongoing costs, rather than the startup price? Especially if the deal with "Three" is typical of 3G internet cost-structures.

    Personally, I'm planning to stick with my recommendations to MoM (My old Mum) to not invest in internet connectivity, unless SHE wants to. The few times she has needed or wanted to do "webby" things (such as claiming a fuel-surcharge refund from British Airways) Myself or another "2" or "3" relative has been quite happy to step in and press the relevant mouse buttons, just as we are to fix her leaky taps, change a smoke-alarm battery or other household chores.

    Let's never forget that up until 15 years ago, most people led a perfectly fulfilled life without any home computers, mobile phones or internet access. It's really not that big a deal. No matter what the pundits would like us to believe.

    [1] well I can, both he and she have made a great deal of money from their chosen zealotry. I just wish they'd turn down their messianic fervour, it's tiresome and no longer entertaining.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "I am quite glad that she has forsaken an online presence. She was brought up in a time where a stranger would be far more likely to hand you back a dropped wallet than mug you for it. When authority figures were trustworthy and upstanding and nobody troubled you"

      Every generation has said that, and it is utter cobblers caused by selective memory etc. You can even go as far back as the likes of PLato and see almost the exact same comments.

    2. CaptainHook

      Delivery Of Services

      "Sure, the internet has it's uses, just as cars do. However that doesn't mean it's everyone's cup of tea and that non-users (whether through disadvantage, inertia or personal choice) should be thought of as somehow inferior, uninformed or mistaken - and therefore in need of her "miracle cure"."

      If the govenment can deliver all it's services via computer, except maybe Health, they don't need to employee people in pretty much every town in the country just to fill in some forms.

      The potential savings are huge, but it only works if everyone can access a computer reasonably easily. If 99% of the population uses a computer but 1% of stalwarts hold out, they still have to keep all those seperate offices running, although the staffing levels can be reduced and the savings are far smaller.

      1. Mark 65

        Computer says no

        "If the govenment can deliver all it's services via computer, except maybe Health, they don't need to employee people in pretty much every town in the country just to fill in some forms."

        I can't see the computer helping you to fill in the form or advise you of other things you're entitled to etc. Not that all staff do this but the ones my olds dealt with did.

      2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        More creative thinking...

        Get rid of the government... fewer services, lower taxes, freedom for internet refuseniks. Problem solved.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      You should lock your mum in a cupboard

      very safe and she will never have to do anything in there. One might call it PARADISE.

  10. Thomas 4

    We want to get the whole of Britain online!

    Unless you live in a remote part of Wales or Scotland.

  11. Nigel Whitfield.

    What's this really about?

    I'm tremendously cynical about this "all must be online" idea. As Pete 2 says, there are some people who don't want to go online, and the idea that MLF has espoused at times that somehow you might not be a proper citizen if you're not online is utterly repellent to me.

    While the cost of these computers seems pretty low to those of us with comfy jobs and somewhere to live, even £92 - let alone a tenner a month for the connectivity - can be a substantial chunk for some people.

    And sure, someone will come along and say "But they can afford Sky TV," and maybe some people without internet access can. But does that give anyone else the right to say "You can't have X, Y or Z, you must spend your money on a net connection instead" ? I really don't think it does.

    I have a feeling that there are other agendas here; there are libraries that provide computer access, and post offices that provide people with government services, and plenty of people who seem to think that the government should be cutting back on spending in those areas. It seems to me that one of the things that is potentially going on here is that the cost of providing people with access to government services is being shifted on to the service users themselves by making them pay for computers and net access.

    And if that's the long term plan, then actually i think it's pretty disgusting, telling the less well off what they can spend their money on, so that those of us higher up the chain might manage to get away with paying less tax. Seeing that at least one of the packages available comes with a voucher for Mecca Bingo really doesn't inspire confidence, either.

    There certainly are lots of benefits to going online, but I really don't think forcing pensioners to spend their income on it is a brilliant idea. A better use of government resources, in my view, would be insisting that outfits like energy companies make sure that their best deals are also available to people who can't afford a computer.

    1. Glyn 2


      If it's that important to have net access then I look forward to the extra tenner a month to pay for it the next time I'm on t'dole. Pensions, IB and all the other benefits will need to go up too. The money can come from all those savings they're making.

      Yeah, right!!!

  12. A J Stiles


    I saw free wi-fi in a bus station once -- and toilets you have to pay for. Somebody, somewhere has mucked-up priorities.

    If there is -de facto- discrimination against non-connected individuals, then the solution is *NOT* to get everyone connected (and therefore dependent on proprietary technology); but to require businesses to provide services via "traditional" channels, *and at the same price*, precisely for the benefit of those who are not connected.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Are you a socialist ?

      Because that's the kind of looney tunes thinking which only Soviet Russia could have come up with.

      If (for example) my energy supplier can save money on my account, by not printing bills, and allowing me to enter my meter readings, when compared to a "traditional" account, then wtf should *I* subsidise *them* ?

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Perhaps ...

        ... because some of us think that it's unfair that the poorest should be excluded from getting the best prices.

        From the tone of your comment, I suspect you think "socialist" is some sort of insult. But we are apparently, as Mr Cameron insists on repeating, all in this together. Though he tends to temper that creed with massive doses of selfishness and hypocrisy, some of us prefer to take it at face value.

        It really doesn't seem fair to me that those who don't have enough money to afford a computer, or a stable enough income to trust energy and comms companies with free access to their bank accounts, should end up being penalised by having to pay more.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Life isn't fair

          deal with it. And anyway, as has already been researched, it isn't "being poor" which is preventing the vast majority of internet refuseniks from going online. It's because they don't want to.

          1. A J Stiles

            Don't want to

            And shouldn't have to.

            Some people have no wish to enrich billionaires by adopting proprietary technology.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Thumb Down


              Why keep bringing this crap up.. the sort of people who would get these machines will not give a dam about the OS or software they get.

              They will mostly be those who refuse because they are scared of change or simply have no idea how a PC could help them. These will also be the type who think children "just know about these things" and its just for the young, and cannot comprehend that the people who designed and built this stuff originally are about to retire themselves.

              Unlike your Mum, my Mum has been using a PC and the internet for about a decade (I gave her the first PC for her 70th Birthday), and she finds:

              - Paying the credit cards online easier than going into town and queuing at the bank.

              - Providing meter readings online to get lower bills is nice, plus electronic billing.

              - Researching prices and reviews of products online to get the best deals.

              - Playing games (mostly card games)

              - Sending emails to contact (and complain to) companies, and finds most respond better to that than writing a letter.

              - ....and lots more.

              A PC and the Internet are as useful and expected as having a telephone, but then again perhaps your Mum still likes to send telegrams.

              1. A J Stiles

                They should give a damn

                It's important because proprietary technology is toxic if you get dependent on it. Read "Industrial Society and its Future" again. Kaczynski's error was in assuming the problem technology was "organisation-dependent" aot proprietary. Anyone who knows P * V = n * R * T can build a refrigerator - unless Robert Boyle is standing there with a big stick refusing to let them use "his" equation.

                Unfortunately, too many people are ignorant, and governments are in bed with the big corporations. Nobody will do anything until it is too late.

      2. A J Stiles


        Why should you subsidise other people?

        Because other people might not have the luxury of an Internet connection, or might have an aversion to the use of proprietary technology to achieve something that formerly could be achieved without such. It's even not altogether inconceivable that they might, for some reason, be barred by the owners of the aforementioned proprietary technology from using it.

        A kilowatt-hour -- or anything, really -- should cost the same whether it's paid for by cash, direct debit (which is only so popular because most people aren't aware that it's a finger-dipper's charter), credit card or cheque. And it should cost the same whether or not they print you a bill; because evaluating the cost of printing bills or not actually adds more to everyone's bills than not printing some of them saves.

        If you're going to offer discounts for everything, then those of us on prepayment meters should certainly get one; because the money is in the energy supplier's bank account, earning interest, while those who pay bills in arrears can continue to pocket the interest themselves until they have to pay the final demand (in the worst case, offering a cheque to the disconnection squad). But that would never do, because it would mean poor people paying *less* than rich people for the same stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          So, by your logic

          interest on savings should be the same across the board, rather than tiered, I mean, why should the poor be excluded from the top rates ?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        The term is "cooperative customer"

        It's the IKEA principle - get your customer to do the same work "for free" that you used to have pay someone to do. 0% productivity improvement but a nice good for the bottom line. They'll have us checking out our own groceries next, oh wait.

        As for the "paperless" stuff. How much do you save versus how much does the company save? And what investment must you make in order to make the saving?

      4. Glyn 2

        @AC 11:32

        "If (for example) my energy supplier can save money on my account, by not printing bills, and allowing me to enter my meter readings, when compared to a "traditional" account, then wtf should *I* subsidise *them* ?"

        My paperless discount for phone bills and my gas/electric bill has magically disappearred, so the companies are now sending money by not sending me bills and keeping the savings fro themselves. This is morally wrong to everyone but the utility companies

  13. Nipsirc

    Hopefully they paid a little more attention

    to the refurb of the computers than they did when they wrote the text for their buttons on the ecycleonline website:

    'Choose your computer from one of our great value *package's*'. Would you like an extra Apostrophe with that?

  14. Bunker_Monkey


    lol These will most likely be Dell desktops that have been taken away from government site at great expense to the tax payer and the sold back to the taxpayer!

    Lets hope they have been properly scrubbed first!?!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Deja vu ...

    Haven't we been here, AND got the T Shirt before ? Wasn't it discovered that the people who want to get online have, and those that weren't online weren't being held back by lack of cheap kit. They just DIDN'T WANT TO KNOW.

    All that will happen, is people who are already online, will buy this kit as a spare/backup/toy, and the number of people not online will remain pretty constant, with a slight decrease which would have happened anyway, given you are taking surveys with time advancing, and the rump of older non-connected people will die off.

  16. Rupert Stubbs

    If everyone needs to be online, then this needs education.

    Does anyone really think that everything won't need to be accessed online at some stage in the future?

    It makes much more sense - but first you need a massive education process to prepare people for it. A bit like the digital TV switchover. Set a deadline (June 1st, 2015, say) after which all government and local council communication/forms will only be online. Give everyone their own official citizen's email address and secure web space. Have a staggered process of moving different regions online. Subsidise PCs for pensioners (as they did with digital TV).

    It would also make sense to use the existing cheap and cheerful devices that are designed for simple operation, like the OLPC or the Vodafone Webbox - using Android would be far more user friendly, cheaper and robust than the overkill of Windows.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Short timespan

      Ultimately, everything probably will be online. But 2015? You're having a laugh!

      It will take much, much longer before it's a practical proposition, I think.

      And if the government sees it as a way of saving money, it should be the one that's paying for the infrastructure to make this possible, not the most needy.

      It would be quite possible to come up with a cut down system that was severely limited; it would even be possible to set up a virtual network if you're using mobile broadband services, that only allowed access to services, paid for centrally, rather than by shifting costs on to users - and likely costing less, thanks to scale of purchase.

      But there are going to be plenty of people who are in their 70s or 80s who could quite easily still be living reasonably independent lives for another 20 years; I really think that any plan to move government solely online needs to be talking in those sorts of time scales - and perhaps working towards a situation where a cheap device - the 2020 equivalent of a netbook or basic tablet - is affordable enough in large quantities that it can be distributed to almost every household.

      If the potential savings from closing offices and doing everything online are as great as some suggest, then even distributing free equipment to the 26 million households in the UK will be good value. If you restricted it to households receiving income related benefits, you'd be looking at fewer than 6 million - so a capital outlay of 600 million would get all those people one of these refurbished PCs right now. That, incidentally, is a fifth of what the current government is planning to spend on reorganising the NHS.

      In some ways, a bigger cost (which is why the current scheme is so keen to recruit volunteer "champions") is actually explaining to people who've never used a computer how to do everything online, and how to stay safe, and so forth.

      And that's one reason why you may be better off doing this over a much longer timescale, because the number of people whom you will have to train will be much smaller, as more people will have had exposure to computers through school and work.

  17. Tim Jenkins

    2011 or 2001?

    2Ghz P4, OBG, 512Mb, XP with a 40Gb HD. Nice spec for a decade ago.

    Your average chavs smartphone's got more welly than that these days, let alone the Xbox under the 50" plasma...

  18. Wize

    My parents aren't online

    Set them up with a connection once, but its nothing that interests them.

    Although getting them to leave their mobile switched on after making a call was probably the most they could do with technology.

  19. Gordon861

    PC Specs

    Just looking at the specs of the PCs.

    They have 20 or 40GB hard drives, can you still buy drives that small?

    And 256 or 512Mb Ram, suprised that Windows 7 and Office 2007 will even run on that. Never mind how much space will be left once you've installed the OS and Office.

    Also "This Premium level PC with a fast processor is ideal for surfing the internet, downloading songs and editing photos." Are they having a laugh?

  20. andy gibson

    Better Alternatives

    Thanks to a lot of NHS and school academy projects, IT recycling companies are swamped with HP DC7600 and DC7700 PCs. They come with 80Gb hard drives, 2Gb of RAM and a TFT and are selling for about £80-£130. And they run Windows 7 quite nicely.


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